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An Awfully Big Adventure (Bainbridge, Beryl)…

An Awfully Big Adventure (Bainbridge, Beryl) (original 1989; edition 1995)

by Beryl Bainbridge (Author)

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4541639,332 (3.65)55
Told with black humour, this is the story of a group of no-hope rep actors in Liverpool in the mid 50s, doing Peter Pan. Stella, the heroine who is Tinkerbell, is a sad and lonely young woman who repeatedly calls the speaking clock for comfort.
Title:An Awfully Big Adventure (Bainbridge, Beryl)
Authors:Beryl Bainbridge (Author)
Info:Carroll & Graf (1995), Edition: Media Tie In, 205 pages

Work details

An Awfully Big Adventure by Beryl Bainbridge (1989)

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The postwar Britain that Beryl Bainbridge has shown me in the three novels I've read of hers has been tranquil, somewhat run-down, and, in its way, comfortingly ordinary. Most of the characters in "An Awfully Big Adventure" belong to a repertory company that's putting on a performance of "Peter Pan" in a Liverpool that still feels bombed out, which means it puts the author right in her comfort zone. In this one, war's losses, aren't limited just to lives or buildings but perhaps a brighter sort of life that the characters themselves seem to have missed out on. Few here dream of stardom in any traditional sense, or even of escape. We hear about the practicalities involved in set construction and the nautical themes there extend beyond the theater: the book's perspective is largely that of a group of old theater hands working at close quarters, both in the act of putting together a show and, in the slightly longer view, facing difficulties involved in staying afloat as a working actor. From the perspective of Stella, who's taking on her first roles, it's perhaps not too different than any other trade. She even spends much of the novel dressed in overalls.

Among this unremarkable background, some of the less ordinary personalities one finds around the theater loom large, and, in the book's last pages, so do their various sins. So does Stella, honestly. Bainbridge seems to have written a female character who's forceful but lacks direction, driven by an inborn stubbornness that even she sometimes struggles to understand. To the author's credit, she's not the instantly likable, self-assured, innocent and yet far-sighted young woman that another writer might have easily written. Stella is motherless and being raised by relatives in a low-rent traveler's hotel; she has talent and a certain brand of self-confidence. She is certain due for a change, but she also, crucially, lacks a sort of sense-of-self and a worldliness that only lived experience can impart. I got the feeling that the only way that she was going to grow up was by making lots of mistakes, and I liked her enough to hope that they wouldn't be too shattering. From that perspective, the book's curious Möbius-strip construction -- the book's first chapter also serves as its last -- didn't disappoint me: the reader, like Stella herself, can't know what the import of her actions will be or what, exactly, is going on around her until after everything's been done and all the crockery's already been smashed to bits. Recommended to devotees of the period, to those who enjoy tales that address growing -- and not growing -- up and to those who enjoy stories filled with the patient grey perseverance that might have defined much of the last half of the twentieth century in Northern industrial cities like Liverpool. ( )
  TheAmpersand | Jul 31, 2020 |
Another little gem from the 1990 Booker shortlist. Beryl Bainbridge was a perennial Booker bridesmaid - she never won the prize, but was shortlisted five times and also longlisted once. This is my first experience of her writing, and it left me wanting to read more.

This is a black comedy set in a provincial theatre in Liverpool shortly after the Second World War. The heroine Stella is a young woman living with her aunt and uncle in humble circumstances, whose love of make believe has persuaded them that she should try her luck in the theatre, where she finds a job as a lowly assistant stage manager, which makes her a dogsbody at the service of the array of wonderful theatrical caricatures that inhabit the place.

Stella is an almost fearless innocent, who manages to misconstrue almost everything, as the cast and management of the theatre manipulate each other ruthlessly. Darker elements are never very far from the surface, and the ending is cleverly constructed and genuinely surprising. Bainbridge has an eye for telling detail and is often very funny, making this a very entertaining read. ( )
  bodachliath | Apr 3, 2019 |
I expected to like this more than I did. Stella annoyed me too much for me to really enjoy the novel. ( )
  GaylaBassham | May 27, 2018 |
I expected to like this more than I did. Stella annoyed me too much for me to really enjoy the novel. ( )
  gayla.bassham | Nov 7, 2016 |
Romance among the members of a small theater company. Young girl thinks she’s more sophisticated than she is. ( )
  piemouth | Oct 27, 2016 |
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For Yolanta and Derwent May
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When the fire curtain had been lowered and the doors were at last closed, Meredith thought he heard a child crying.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Told with black humour, this is the story of a group of no-hope rep actors in Liverpool in the mid 50s, doing Peter Pan. Stella, the heroine who is Tinkerbell, is a sad and lonely young woman who repeatedly calls the speaking clock for comfort.

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